When most people think of a New Zealand wine, they will automatically think Sauvignon Blanc.  And with good reason . . . they have become some of the most delicious and popular white wines in the world, and in a very short amount of time. 

This month, we looked at their most promising red variety, Pinot Noir, to see if they are making the same type of progress.

The tasting started off slow, with the first three wines not capturing the tasters' hearts or palates.  Luckily, the last three saved the night from disaster, with good flavor and some richness.

Andy broke Ali's dominance on Pinot Noir contests with a bottle costing only a third the price of the second place wine.  Natalie proved herself as an excellent guest taster, and Josephine was just as insightful as ever.

First Place: Kiwi Elements Pinot Noir 2005 (East Coast).  Spicy, complex nose of clove and mace, along with cedar, tomato, pencil lead, licorice, mint, potato chip, menthol, and veggie chips.  Peppery palate, medium to full-bodied, and smoky.  Balanced, and soft in the mouth.  Received 34 points.  Andy's bottle.  A steal at only $10.

Second Place:  Auntsfield Pinot Noir Hawk Hill 2004 (Marlborough).  Dark in color.  Aromas that are reminiscent of rubber cement, tomato plant, Bazooka gum, cola, bark, root beer, and dark berries.  Natalie was reminded of "sharpie that they try to make smell like fruit", while Josephine felt it was like "gentian root".  Deep, with chocolate, cola, and plum flavors.  Ali detected "rhubarb pie".  Expansive, and the most tannic of the night. Received 25 points.  Josephine's bottle.  About $30.

Third Place:  Matua Pinot Noir 2006 (Marlborough).  Celery, green bean, honeysuckle, and paper on the nose, with the alcohol sticking out a bit.  Soft texture, with bright cherry and floral qualities.  Peppery, black tea finish. Simple, but pleasurable.  Received 13 points.  Kristin's bottle.  About $15.

The rest:

Maven Pinot Noir 2005 (Marlborough).  Smelling of whole tomato, silly putty, and rubber cement.  Josephine thought it was "like new doll", while Natalie felt it was similar to "seventh grade math textbook".  More ripe than some of the others, with a heavier palate.  Andy found "pixie stick" flavors, and called it a "robot wine".  Woody finish.  Received 3 points.  Ali's bottle.  About $25. 

Kim Crawford Pinot Noir 2006 (Marlborough).  Nose of coffee and raw beef, which Natalie explained as "in a freezer where people don't have shoes on".  Full-bodied, with cherries, plums, dark chocolate, espresso, and green herbs.  Not as Pinot-like as some of the others.  Natalie felt that "part of the tractor fell in" on this one.  Ali hated it.  Received 3 points.  David's bottle.  About $15. 

Delta Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 (Marlborough).  Complex aromas, featuring raisins, cola, black pepper, tomato skin, damp cardboard, chalk, green bell pepper, and pineapples.  Natalie was reminded of "lychee from the can".  Flavors of cherry and pepper, with a soft texture, and a short, metallic finish.  Josephine called it "flat", while Natalie said that it "tastes like saliva at the end".  No points.  Natalie's bottle.  About $21. 

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